It was disconcerting to walk invisible through my favorite district. I felt like a ghost of who I’d once been: vibrant, angry, determined—naïve, God, so naïve!—storming into Dublin to hunt Alina’s murderer, only to learn I was a powerful sidhe-seer and null, exiled shortly after birth and possessed by enormous evil. I’d been weak, grown strong, grown weak again. Like the city I loved, I kept changing and it wasn’t always pretty.
There was a time I’d have given anything to be invisible. Like the night I sat in a pub with Christian MacKeltar, on the verge of discovering how he’d known my sister, back in those innocent days he was still a sexy young druid with a killer smile. Barrons had interrupted us, phoning to tell me the skies were filled with Hunters and I needed to get my ass back to the bookstore fast. As I’d left Christian with a promise to meet again soon, I felt like (and was!) a giant walking neon sign of an X. I’d gotten cornered in a dead-end alley by a giant Hunter and the superhumanly strong, decaying citron-eyed vampire Mallucé.
If I’d been invisible then, I would never have been abducted, tortured, beaten so near death I had to eat Unseelie to claw my way back.
Halloween. That was another night being invisible would have been a blessing. After watching the ancient Wild Hunt stain Dublin’s sky from horizon to horizon with nightmarish Unseelie, I might have descended the belfry, stolen from the church and avoided the rape of four Unseelie princes and the subsequent Pri-ya-induced madness that possessed me. Would never have been forced to drink a Fae elixir that had altered my mortal life span in ways yet unknown.
On both those horrifying, transformative nights it was Jericho Barrons who saved me, first by a brand he’d tattooed on the back of my skull that allowed him to locate me hidden in a subterranean grotto deep beneath the desolate Burren, then by dragging me back to reality with constant reminders of my life before All Hallow’s Eve and providing the incessant sex to which the princes had left me mindlessly addicted.
If either of those events hadn’t transpired, I wouldn’t be who and what I was now.
If I liked who and what I was now, it would make both those hellish times worth it.
Too bad I didn’t.
A faint, dry chittering above me penetrated my brooding. I glanced up and shivered. I’d never seen my ghoulish stalkers fly en masse and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It was straight out of a horror flick, black-cloaked cadaverous wraiths streaking beneath rain clouds, cobwebs trailing from their gaunt forms, the silvery metallic bits of their deeply hooded faces glinting as they peered down into the streets. There were hundreds of them, fanning out over Dublin, flying slowly, obviously hunting for something.
I had no doubt who they were looking for.
I ducked into the shallow alcoved doorway of a closed pub, barely breathing, praying they couldn’t suddenly somehow sense me. I didn’t move until the last of them had vanished into the stormy sky.
Inhaling deeply, I stepped out of the niche and pushed into a dense throng of people gathered at a street vendor’s stand, holding my umbrella as high as I could. I took two elbows in the ribs, got both my feet stepped on and an umbrella poked into my tush. I broke free of the crowd with a growl that turned quickly to a choked inhale.
I sprouted roots and stood, staring. She was ten feet away, wearing jeans, a clingy yellow shirt, a Burberry raincoat, and high-heeled boots. Her hair was longer, her body leaner. Alone, she spun in a circle, as if looking for someone or something. I held my breath and didn’t move then realized how stupid that was. Whatever this illusion was, it couldn’t see me anyway. And if it could see me, presto—proof it wasn’t real. Not that I needed any.
I knew better than to think it was actually my sister. I’d identified her body. I’d made her funeral arrangements when my parents had been immobilized by grief. I’d slid the coffin lid shut myself before her closed-casket funeral. It was indisputably my sister I’d left six feet under in Ashford, Georgia.
“Not funny,” I muttered to the Sinsar Dubh. Assuming Cruce, with his proclivity to weave this particular illusion for me, was still secured beneath the abbey, it could only be the Book torturing me now.
A pedestrian crashed into my motionless back and I stumbled from the sidewalk out into the street. I flailed for balance and barely refrained from plunging headfirst into the gutter. Standing still in a crowd while invisible was idiotic. I composed myself, or tried to, given the image of my sister was now only half a dozen feet from me. There was no reply from my inner demon but that didn’t surprise me. The Book hadn’t uttered a word since the night it played genie, granting my muttered wish.
I glanced over my shoulder to watch for impending human missiles. “Make it go away,” I demanded.
There was only silence within.
The thing that looked like Alina stopped turning and stood, cocking a tan umbrella with bold black stripes at a better angle to survey the street. Confusion and worry puckered her brows, creating a deep furrow between them. She bit her lower lip and frowned, the way my sister did when she was thinking hard. Then she winced and brushed her stomach with her hand as if something hurt or she was feeling nauseous.
I caught myself wondering who she was looking for, why she was worried, then realized I was getting sucked in and focused instead on the details of the illusion, seeking mistakes, while jogging from side to side and stealing quick glances around me.
There was the small mole to the left of her upper lip that she’d never considered having removed. (I zigged to the left to make way for a pair of Rhino-boys marching down the sidewalk.) The long sooty lashes that, unlike mine, hadn’t needed mascara, the dent of a scar on the bridge of her nose from crashing into a trash can when we’d leapt off swings as little girls, which crinkled when she laughed and drove her crazy. (I zagged to the right to avoid a stumbling drunk who was singing off-key, loudly and badly, that someone had wreh-ehcked him.) The Book had her down pat, re-created no doubt from memories it sifted through and studied while I slept or was otherwise occupied. I’d often pictured her this way, out for a night on the town. In fact, pretty much every time I walked through the Temple Bar district thoughts of her took foggy shape in the back of my mind. But I always pictured her with friends, not alone. Happy, not worried. And she’d never worn a sparkling diamond ring on her left ring finger, glinting as she adjusted her umbrella. She’d never been engaged. Never would be.